Deadpool gives new meaning to the idea of the antihero

There isn’t an aspect of superhero lore that isn’t rubbished by the action-comedy Deadpool. By the lights of this decade’s movie making, that’s a lot of rubbishing.

The nocturnal sacrifice of Batman; the touching shyness of the Thing; Superman’s crushing sense of responsibility—all the noble qualities these movies usually ask us to honor are tossed aside in favor of mindless, speedy sadism. Deadpool is all about the importance of quipping while killing. It’s the kind of movie that comes along when a genre is running out of ideas and patience.

Wade (Ryan “the Arch-Bro” Reynolds) was once a violent mercenary, temporarily redeemed from his cruel life by love for a prostitute, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Seeking a solution for terminal cancer, Wade is fried in a genetic hyperbaric chamber by a vicious criminal mastermind known as Ajax (Ed Skrein). When the DNA fixing is all done, Wade looks like a pizza.

A thoroughly disfigured but nigh immortal vigilante with mutant healing skills, Deadpool claims, “I’m not the hero; I’m the bad guy who fucks up worse guys.” Carrying samurai swords and a pistol, this zany maniac busts heads while breaking the fourth wall, an amazing novelty for those who never saw Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. During his mission, he’s forced into partnership with a (relatively) sane pair: Brianna Hildebrand as the sulky yet explosive Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and the X-Man known as Colossus, a big, oversincere hulk of living chrome.

Deadpool is as laughable as it is mean, but it’s strange how one starts to respond to a half-coalesced moment of moral centering, in what’s supposed to be a boring speech by Colossus. What’s so funny about justice and mercy?

Director Tim Miller’s frankness about how much of a superhero farrago Deadpool is can be caught from the titles, which literally claim “Starring Some Douchebag” and “Produced by Asshats.” How can you not applaud such truth in advertising? Yet how exactly would they characterize their audience?